LOS ANGELES — The purpose guard legends of New York Metropolis — the Stephon Marburys and the Kenny Andersons — have been all higher than Donovan Mitchell in highschool and on the playground.
As Mitchell himself acknowledged Friday about his days on a Manhattan-based AAU squad, The Metropolis, “I couldn’t shoot, I couldn’t dribble — I used to be only a dunker.
“I performed protection and dunked. That’s it.”
However that modified not lengthy earlier than he received into the NBA, quickly and spectacularly. Now a frontrunner for Rookie of the Yr, he has constantly exhibited the capabilities to attain what most of these NYC playground legends couldn’t: NBA superstardom.
And he additionally may’ve been a Knick.
“There was positively part of me that (needed to be drafted by the Knicks),” Mitchell stated. “Clearly, who wouldn’t need to play again residence the place they grew up?”
Mitchell, 21, made certain to qualify that assertion with gushing for his present franchise, the Jazz, and why not? Even in one of many NBA’s smallest markets, he has already elicited mainstream consideration whereas averaging almost 20 factors and carrying the most well liked staff within the NBA. His media desk Friday was extra crowded than any of his Rising Stars Problem teammates, dwarfing the presence surrounding Frank Ntilikina.
A lot of it has to do with Mitchell’s type, “that New York swagger,” he known as it. He’s explosive on the courtroom and interesting in entrance of a microphone. He’s a star of the All-Star weekend’s undercard, each a starter in Friday night time’s Rising Stars Problem and a participant in Saturday’s Slam Dunk contest.
Nonetheless, 12 groups handed over Mitchell within the draft, together with seven that picked guards. Mitchell, who performed two years underneath Rick Pitino at Louisville, made the Knicks’ quick listing and was known as in for a last-minute exercise the day earlier than the draft.
However Phil Jackson and Steve Mills settled on Ntilikina, who has confirmed much less NBA-ready, and the Knicks missed out on a hometown budding star. Mitchell stated his confidence reworked after figuring out within the offseason with Chris Paul and Paul George, two All-Stars who shared their optimism for the rookie’s potential.
“They actually modified my thoughts in a 25-, 30-minute dialog,” Mitchell stated. “As a result of if these two future Corridor of Famers really feel this fashion, why shouldn’t I really feel that approach about myself? It actually simply triggered that thought and I began believing in myself.”
Mitchell went to highschool in Greenwich, Conn., however was born in Elmsford — only a few miles from the Knicks apply facility — and performed his AAU ball in Manhattan. His first dunk was in Harlem on a “slanted courtroom,” he stated, which allowed him to raise simply excessive sufficient.
His father, Donovan Sr., is a former minor-league baseball participant, who nonetheless works for the Mets because the director of participant relations. Mitchell Jr. was additionally a baseball standout earlier than breaking his wrist in highschool.
“At that time, I simply developed extra of a starvation for basketball than I did for baseball,” he stated. “I needed to be on the market with my guys (in AAU) and I got here again in a shorter time than anticipated and I used to be simply able to play basketball versus baseball.”
He hasn’t stopped taking part in and enhancing, driving that wave to All-Star weekend and maybe superstardom. It might’ve been cool to see that unfold at Madison Sq. Backyard.
“I don’t consider it like, ‘Man, what if I had 40 within the Backyard?’ I don’t actually consider it like that,” he stated. “I believe it’s extra like there was a time through the draft course of, the place it was like, ‘Man, it will be cool to play in Backyard, play in New York.’ However I don’t actually replicate on what I may’ve been.”
Hypotheticals are lots simpler to dismiss today for Mitchell. He’s in an amazing place. The Knicks are nonetheless ready for his or her sunshine.